The wild carp is an adaptable fish, which is capable of living in a wide variety of habitats in Britain. Generally, however, it favours shallow lakes and ponds, rich in aquatic vegetation, and still, sluggish, or slowmoving rivers and canals. Since Britain is at the northernmost limit of the area in which carp reproduce, it follows that, in general, the distribution and occurrence of the species are greater in the south of these islands than in the north. The most northerly wild carp fisheries in the British Isles are Brayton Pond, near Aspatria in Cumbria, and Danskine Loch, in Scotland.

Adult wild carp typically inhabit warmer environments, such as shallow areas of ponds and lakes, or slack eddies in rivers, usually where there is aquatic vegetation. On rare occasions, they have been noted in swift mountain trout streams, and netted to depths of nearly 100ft.

Basic carp fishing

Next to presenting bread crusts on a greased line, perhaps the mosl effective of all carp fishing methods—and there are many—is to ‘freeline’. The secret behind this most sensitive presentation is to choose a bait large and heavy enough to be cast accurately without the addition of shots or float, and simply to offer it on the bottom on a completely ‘free line’.

Good freelining swims are close to beds of surface weed such as broad leaf potamogeton or lilies, alongside fallen trees or where brambles trail into the water, on the top of a shallow, gravel bar, or wherever carp have been seen moving even very’close in alongside marginal rushes or sedges. In short, almost any area within 20 to 30 yards of the bank. Beyond that distance freelining techniques can cause problems for the inexperienced.

Care must be taken to ensure that most of the line lies perfectly flat along the bottom, or ‘line bites’, where a fish swims into a ‘hanging’ line, might occur.

Good, heavy, baits are lobworms (try two on the hook), breadflake, luncheon meat, small whole freshwater mussels straight out of the shell, and various pastes such as tinned cat food, or sausage meat stiffened with wholemeal flour. Use hook sizes 2 to 6 depending on baits, and tie direct to 810 lb b.s. Line. Where there are no weeds or snags or where the carp average on the small side, line strength can be reduced to 67 lb. In each case use an ‘all through action’ rod.

Carp bites

Bites are usually bold when freelining because the carp simply feels minimum resistance as it sucks in and makes off with the bait, so allow some ‘slack’ or a ‘bow’ in the line to hang down from the rod tip and watch it carefully where it enters the water. After a preliminary ‘twitch’ or sometimes without any prior warning the line will suddenly and confidently rise up through the water. Wait for it to fully tighten before striking hard and far back. This is most important when using big hooks for they do not penetrate the carp’s rubbery mouth easily. To help penetration, flatten the barb with a pair of. Forceps and really sharpen the outside edge between point and barb with a carborundum stone. It is worth the extra few minutes, because a powerful carp can be lost within seconds.

Learn to walk slowly, quietly, and not to make any sudden arm movements around a carp water, and you will even hook fish which confidently swim within mere feet of where you sit.

Carp baits

Tinned petf oods make good carp baits when stiffened with rusk or groundbait, and the addition of a small amount of flour keeps these baits intact in the water for long enough to be useful.

Carp will take maggots, casters, worms, beetles, snails, slugs, caterpillars, caddis, shrimps, wasp grubs, leeches, mealworms, freshwater cockles, mussels, small crayfish, silkworms, and dragonfly larvae. All of these will catch carp.

Particle baits such as sweetcorn are successful because carp are attracted to large numbers of small food items and readily become preoccupied with feeding on them. Once samples of the particle bait are already in your swim, it is only a matter of time before the hookbait is taken. A problem with small baits on carp tackle is that the fish seem to learn quickly how to avoid those hooked seeds which act differently.

Float fishing can be particularly useful with particle baits. The method gives an indication of where the hookbait is, and loose bait particles can be scattered around the float. It also minimizes the danger of hooked bait being taken down the throat, especially if a sensitive lift method is used. But on heavily floatfished waters, carp no doubt see the line. Float fishing then becomes pointless and you have to revert to ledgering or freelining.

In 1952, Richard Walker broke the British rodcaught carp record with a 44 lb common carp from Redmire Pool —a record that still stands. At that time, the norm in carp tackle was to use a cane rod of about 1 Oft and a centrepin reel or, if you were fortunate, one of the early fixedspool reels.

The beginner should start with a 10 or lift rod with a fast taper. The reel will be a goodquality fixedspool model with at least 8 lb b.s. Nylon.

Bread still catches plenty of carp if used intelligently, and the modern carp specialist uses it in all its varied forms because it is cheap and easy to obtain. But the most serious drawback of bread is that almost all other species of fish find it attractive and will remove it from the hook before the carp find it. Swans, too, can be a nuisance.

Usefulness of worms

Worms are useful baits, and are particularly good when stalking carp and casting to feeding fish. They can be made to float by injecting them with a small amount of air, using a hypodermic syringe with a fine needle, and can then be floated or ledgered. Lobworms and rcdworms are the best.